When Manuel Norris, owner of the Little Heaven Deli, opened in 2012, he kept the taco stand he bought at 2348 Mission Street, but he quickly discovered that there was too much competition and diners were looking for something else.
Nine months ago, that something else became crepes – an idea he got from working at the now closed French cafe Ti Couz on 16th Street.
He’s onto something: sales have more than doubled.
To be sure, Mexican food is still hot in the Mission – one simply has to drop by the packed La Taqueria, Papalote or the recently opened La Rondalla on any given day to see that. There is, however, increasingly room for new dishes that are fast, inexpensive and healthy. Papalote, for example, has thrived with its healthier version of familiar staples and when La Rondalla reopened last week, Mission Local’s food reviewer noted the absence of its once-loved lard.
“They want something different and also they are looking into more vegan and vegetarian more health conscious,” said Noriss of his new customers. “So the crepe has no beans and rice that a lot of people try to avoid and we’re just adjusting.”
Even in the two years he has been on the street, Norris said his clientele has become a lot more diverse. At first it was mostly all Latino, now half of his customers are of other ethnicities, a good reflection of the changing demographics in the Mission. In the 2010 census, Latinos made up 39 percent of the population compared to 50 percent in 2000.
Not only has Norris adjusted to the changes, he is also catering to customers’ needs and wants. Little Heaven’s menu includes gluten-free and soon they will serve buckwheat crepes. Norris said he tried to offer reasonable prices – their cheapest crepe is only $3 dollars. The most expensive – the Holy Crepe – goes for $10. It has everything: various fruits, nutella, chocolate chips, marshmallows, and caramel. They also sell sandwiches.
Originally from Mexico City, Norris has lived in the United States for nearly 20 years and has worked almost every position in the food industry, from busser to manager. He sees no problem in giving up tacos and he sees a certain “beauty in selling crepes.”
“You can sell it morning afternoon or night. You can have it breakfast with egg, bacon, and ham. You can have it chocolate or chicken, smoked salmon creme cheese,” said Norris. “There a lot of items you can put on it so you can sell it any time of the day.”